Their Voice: Recognizing direct support professionals for their important work
On behalf of the many service providers in Utah Valley and across the state, families and people with disabilities, I wanted to identify and thank all direct support professionals.
I chose this time because Sept. 12 marks the beginning of National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week. The idea and creation of this recognition week started in 2008 and was influenced by John F. Kennedy Jr. The Kennedy family has a history of advocating on behalf of people with disabilities beginning with their sister Rosemary. Many laws protecting this population, Special Olympics, Best Buddies and other advocacy groups began with different members of the family.
John Jr., son of President John F. Kennedy, was no exception to this legacy and turned his focus to the many individuals who were providing supports and services to people with special needs. “The NADSP, National Association of Direct Support Professional, was created by a small group of committed professionals that included John F. Kennedy, Jr. when he was the President of Reaching Up and involved with the New York State Consortium for the Study of Disabilities at the City University of New York. Since those early days, the NADSP has promoted the development of a highly competent and ethical direct support workforce that supports people with disabilities in achieving their life goals.” John F. Kennedy Jr. wrote, “Quality is defined at the point of interaction between the staff member and the individual with a disability.”
The skills required by a DSP to ensure the quality referred to by Kennedy are skills that most of us have but not all of us share as easily. Those skills include compassion, understanding, patience, attentiveness and patience. They aren’t taught in a classroom or learned from a book but they can be developed and increased through service.
Direct support professionals are the pathway to independence and inclusion for people with special needs. They advocate for their equal treatment and rights and are teachers and mentors of the skills needed for independence. They ensure the health and safety of the people they support but also are able to step aside and allow them to create their own experiences.
It is important that we set aside this time to remind us of the enhanced quality of life people have with the support of DSPs but we really should be thanking them every day and after those special moments because, I assure you, without them our community would lose some of its charm that comes from diversity and inclusiveness.
Thank you, direct support professionals, for the work you do.